Monday, February 28, 2011


March, my friends! March! Month of my dad's birthday and even some spring for the rest of the continent.
I took this picture during a road trip in Oregon last fall. I was traveling with a good friend from my Boston days and as expected it was quite an adventure. A local friend recommended that we detour through Fern Valley, somewhere north of Humboldt, CA. She mentioned the drive in was long and on an unpaved road, but I didn't realize we were going to go over a RIVER - three times! It was truly terrifying, though fortunately another little car like mine was ahead of us and handled it fine. Still. eek. Alas, I did not take a picture of the river-covered road. I did get a shot of some of the wildlife though.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

WIP Wednesday: more sweater!

I'm cruising along and enjoying this sweater. I like the way the stitches line up in an interesting column - it's definitely an added bonus that I can memorize at least a row at a time so I'm not constantly looking at the chart.
I've only made one little mistake so far (not pictured!) - I messed up one of the cable-ish twists and fixed it, but one row higher than it should have been. Right, well, I'm not perfect. No problem there.

This will likely be finished sometime this summer, unless other (shiny!) projects distract me. Could happen.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I am the mistress of waffles!

...or at least I made some really yummy ones today. I bought a waffle maker after Christmas and was surprised to learn they're not as easy as my mom's always-delicious offerings led me to believe. I knew they had to be eaten immediately but didn't realize how soggy they could become, and so quickly!

So I've been experimenting a bit. My base recipe is from good 'ol Better Homes & Gardens - that cookbook is a staple on my shelf. I've halved their recipe because even that makes more than I can eat in a morning. I tend to freeze the rest and toast them over the next week or so. (I've had toasted waffles for dinner on more than one occasion!)

Anyway that recipe was a good base but I wanted some ideas for making the waffles a bit more crisp. I did some poking around and tried some techniques this morning with good success. There's still more tweaking to be done (and they still got soggy when they cooled!) but I am well on my way to being a Waffle Star.

Rainy weekend waffles
Turn on the waffle maker when you start combining ingredients, so it's ready to go when the batter is.

In one bowl, combine the dry ingredients:
3/4 c flour
1/8 c corn starch
1 1/2 tsp baking powder*

In another bowl, combine the liquid ingredients:
5/6 c milk **
1/4 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla ***

In still another bowl (no, I do NOT have a dishwasher), whisk vigorously until frothy (you can come back to it after you rest):
3 T egg whites ****
[or, separate one egg, use the white here, and add the yolk to the other liquid ingredients, above]
1 T sugar

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones - stir gently until it's only somewhat lumpy. Gently stir in the egg white/sugar mixture. Make your waffles - they are still best when extremely fresh off the iron, so don't be shy about digging in!

* After reading David Lebovitz's post about non-aluminum baking powder, and because I've often detected trace bitterness when I use a recipe that relies upon it for leavening, I now use Rumford aluminum-free baking powder. You may call me Princess.

** I confess I rarely have milk on hand - it's more often half & half for coffee or sometimes whole milk for tea, and I usually don't want to use all of it up in a recipe. As a result, I am rather cavalier with this bit. Today I used some half & half, some milk, and some water - just  make sure the liquid measure is right.

*** I impulsively bought vanilla bean paste at the Bowl a while back, so I tend to use this instead. If I were a scientist I might do side-by-side waffle tastings, but I'm not the Doctor of Waffles, I am the Mistress of them, so I don't have to do things like that.

**** I happen to have a bajillion egg whites in my fridge (okay, 9) after a recent pot de creme episode.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

WIP Wednesday: Cookies!

(not THAT kind of cookie!)

Cookie A. has made a name for herself in knitting-land for her interestingly-constructed and beautiful sock patterns. Like many, I first became aware of her work when I encountered the legions of knitters making her Monkey socks (that's Cookie in the picture!). I didn't make them though.

Then last winter I received a knitting-related book for Christmas, and wound up swapping it for Cookie's first book, Sock Innovation (amazon link). I admired and bookmarked it like crazy, but got distracted by other things (like the six months I spent on a sweater...) and didn't actually create any socks from the book.

This fall I went to a book signing party for her NEW book,  - and yes, bought a copy of the book. And finally I've actually cast some on!

I chose her Gothic Spire pattern. It's fiddly and has multiple charts and lots of things to pay attention to, and I couldn't begin to memorize the pattern, but it's quite fun nonetheless.

Part of the pattern requires slipping four stitches to another needle and wrapping them repeatedly, then knitting them. Some posters on Ravelry complained this reduced the stretchiness of the sock, so I was careful not to wrap too tightly. I also did only three repeats of the leg chart, rather than four, to avoid having snug sock hit the wider part of my calf. So far so good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Recipe Review: Baked's Sweet and Salty Brownies

I'm fortunate to work with people who looooove food. Our annual department potluck is legendary, and I always glance hopefully at certain desks, in hopes something homemade is on offer, displayed beckoningly on the corner of a desk.

One of these food lovers turned me onto a great little cookbook: Baked Explorations, written by a team of bakers from Brooklyn.

It's a beautiful book and I've got post-its on several pages. When I offered to bring something to a friend's place for her birthday on Sunday, I offered to let her make a suggestion, but I was glad when she didn't ask for anything specific. A third of the fun of making dessert is picking the recipe (the other thirds are the making & the consuming, of course!). When I turned the page on the recipe for Baked's Sweet & Salty Brownies, I knew I'd found just the thing! My friend is famous for her love of salt, and is a fiend for dark chocolate.

I won't write out the recipe here, though it's certainly available online. Here's what you do:
combine sugar, corn syrup, and water, and get it super hot so it turns golden brown.

Then you add cream and salt and sour cream - and ta da! it's caramel!

Then you melt some butter & dark chocolate, remove it from the heat, and stir in a couple kinds of sugar.
 Then you add eggs, and finally flour, salt, and cocoa powder.

When you're ready to bake, you put down a layer of the brownie batter, then some caramel (not so much that it runs out to touch the edges.. they warn it will burn!), and a final layer of brownie batter.

I probably put a little too much batter on the bottom layer, because I didn't have QUITE enough to fully seal the caramel in. When I pulled the pan from the oven there were some little lava spots of boiling caramel. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I forgot to sprinkle on the sugar/salt combo when I pulled the brownies from the oven. But I had leftover salted caramel, so we served the brownies with some caramel on top, and then sprinkled on the salt/sugar combination.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another dinner party!

A year ago I hosted my wine group for dinner. There must be something about February, because I wound up doing it again this weekend! Again we had 8 people; this time we tasted syrah. Dinner was wonderful (osso buco, mushroom risotto, sauteed greens, salad, bread & cheese) and so was dessert! I made Meyer lemon pots de creme with sweetened whipped cream and my rosemary shortbread cookies. I also served samples of my nocino, which was met with general appreciation!
 lavender from the garden

The lemon pots de creme recipe had a different technique than the one I used a couple of weeks ago - that one had me whisk together the yolks & sugar, but the one I used this week called for the yolks & sugar to be continually whisked (by machine!) for 4+ minutes. I'm definitely going to adapt that when I take another shot at making the burnt caramel pot de creme - it made for a MUCH lighter texture in the finished product (I was also more diligent in pulling them from the oven while they were still quite jiggly).
 rosemary from the garden
My apartment looked great, and it was so fun to bring in flowers from the garden and from the tree behind my building.  AND it was fun to finally use the small glasses I've been saving for years for just this sort of event.

 plum blossoms from the hillside behind my building

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

WIP Wednesday: sweater!

I happened to be perusing Knitty looking for sock patterns, but came upon a lovely sweater pattern instead! I am the proud possessor of a sweater's worth of yarn (purchased at a discount as they've discontinued the oh-so-me color).

After the six months I spent knitting a sweater last year, I wasn't at all convinced I'd do another. But perhaps knitting is like childbirth, and you just forget the pain (I hear..but do not believe) and remember only the nice bits. At any rate, I've cast on a sweater.

This one is a cardigan knit from the bottom up. I've only skimmed the directions (bad knitter!) but it looks like you do most of the body, then go make the sleeves, then join the body and sleeves as you knit the top bit. If that's true, I may quite like this project!

Right now I just have a few inches of waistband, so I'm a long way off from worrying about arms and stuff.

(Thanks to AnotherYarn for reminding me about the WIP series!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

small tweak

it's bugged me for the whole time I've had this blog that the center is so skinny, and the blank outsides so very blank and wide. I finally got around to tweaking the design just a TINY bit.

Here's a before & after screen shot to help illustrate the small difference.

yeah, I should widen the header to match, but I don't want to get too nutty. Is the difference even noticeable?

lazy sunday goodness

Work has been crazy and I haven't gotten much done on the home front lately. However I'm having a lovely productive Sunday so far!

I cleaned the bathroom sink (makes the whole room look better!), finally started some applesauce I've been meaning to make for ages (good thing apples keep so well in the fridge), and made waffles.

Ten billion years ago (or, 15ish) I lived in Boston for a few years. In the summer of 1995 my roommate and I rented a car and did a road trip that included landing in Rangeley, Maine - four hours north of Boston with a population of about a thousand people. I have no idea how we chose that town, nor even how long we were there nor what we did on our visit. The only thing I know for sure is that we went to a place called Blueberry Hill, and I bought a batter bowl almost identical to the one in the picture.

I say "almost identical" because the original was the only thing of all my possessions that broke when I moved cross-country from Boston to Portland. I traveled by train, so most of my stuff got shipped later, and my only casualty was that bowl.

Well, I was both enterprising and rather fond of that bowl. I wrote a letter to the hotel we'd stayed at in Rangeley, and asked them to forward an enclosed letter to Blueberry Hill (since this was pre-internet and I didn't know where it was, exactly). In the letter to Blueberry Hill I guess I enclosed a blank check, I really don't remember - but I asked them to please please please mail me another batter bowl. And they did, and I made waffle batter in it this very morning. And wow, were they tasty!

Friday, February 4, 2011


Welcome, February! Unlike much of the country, the Bay Area has been full of sunshine and spring is in full force. Trees are in bloom, and the hillside behind my apartment building is starting to echo with chirping birds around 7 am. (It's a lot less charming when it's light at 5:30am in a few months, and the birds are going nuts at that unholy hour.)

I took my Feb 2011 calendar shot on my trip to New Zealand last fall. Deirdre and I walked around this small village outside of Rotorua, without realizing we were supposed to donate money for the privilege. The building in the above photograph is the church hall (I think) for Saint Faith Anglican church.

The water is steaming but the swans didn't seem to mind in the least. The whole village was located there because the hot springs throughout the area provided handy cooking and heating sources!